FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Airline Customer Service

Jun 17, 2017

My husband and I recently traveled from our home in Southern Oregon to Chicago and back and had the opportunity to observe and compare customer service on two airlines. Actually, I guess technically they are now one entity, as we flew on Alaska and Virgin America, the former recently buying the latter, but there was a distinct difference in the quality of the service on the aircraft.

I had never flown Virgin America before, so I was curious about what my experience would be like. We flew Alaska from the Medford Airport to LAX and then flew Virgin America from LAX to O’Hare. Our return trip was booked on Alaska flights, ORD to Seattle to Medford. We have flown Alaska numerous times, as here in the Northwest (Seattle hosts the airline’s headquarters) it offers the most options to flyers, especially between the larger hubs and smaller, regional airports. We’ve always found the service on board to be friendly, efficient and attentive. There are several options of food for purchase, and while not gourmet, the airline has partnered with well-known chefs such as Tom Douglas to design some unique offerings. Coffee, tea, juices, soft drinks and water are gratis, and regional beers and wines are available (occasionally offered free, as well). Small, free snacks are provided and often go beyond the tiny packet of pretzels or nuts. Recently they’ve handed out tasty biscotti-style cookies. The crew circulates through the cabin frequently, offering to take up trash and refresh drinks. When significant turbulence on our Chicago to Seattle leg forced the crew to remain belted in for long stretches, several apologies were issued for the inconvenience.

I chose to purchase something for lunch on the Virgin America LAX–ORD flight rather than purchase something at the airport and carry it aboard. I really liked being able to order my chicken salad sandwich via the seatback Red entertainment screen (all for-purchase drinks and food items are ordered this way). Calling it “on demand” is a bit of a misnomer, however, as the flight attendants still begin at the front of the plane and work their way back, distributing orders and gratis drinks as they go. We were at the very back of the main cabin, so it took quite some time for them to get to us. Overall, the food offerings were fairly typical and not at all remarkable. I was surprised when the woman seated next to me asked if there was any kind of free snack offered and was told there was nothing. Not even a bag of peanuts? Apparently not! I was a bit disappointed in the service; once the attendants had made a pass through with the beverages/food cart, they seated themselves for a two-hour chat at the rear of the cabin and didn’t budge until making the final pass through the cabin to pick up trash. (Perhaps that on-demand system leads to some complacency on the part of the crew.) Many of us sat with the remnants of our meals tucked in inconvenient places for all that time — quite annoying.

Virgin’s entertainment system itself is pretty slick, offering games, TV shows, movies and even seat-to-seat messaging. Even on the newer Boeing 737-900 we flew back to Seattle (which, by the way, had more legroom in coach than I’ve experienced in quite a while), Alaska didn’t have seatback screens, though content could be accessed on personal devices.

I’m excited about the possibilities with the Alaska–Virgin America merger, especially with the expanded network of destinations. After my recent experience on both airlines, I’m hoping Virgin America will up their in-flight service and Alaska will improve entertainment options on board.

— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor




FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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